Ms ZiYou Accidental Environmentalist
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An accidental environmentalist gets more devout

I never thought I’d be the person to become an eco-warrior. Yet nowadays I frequently am concerned about the environment and the legacy we are leaving future generations. It was not always this way. But somehow, over the past years, I’ve become more and more worried about our impact on the earth. Perhaps I could be described as an accidental environmentalist, I have always been keen on saving pennies, which conveniently also involved less consumption and waste.

Background

In the past, you’d rarely hear me describe myself as environmentally conscious, perhaps due to the global warming branding. The idea of global warming seemed almost farcical when you lived in a wet and cold country like the UK. Moreover, I’ve always been a believer in the big bang theory of evolution. Hence, knowing there had been an ice age previously, made me naively believe that any global warming was just part of the Earths natural cycle. As we only live for ~ 85 years, therefore we can only experience a tiny amount of the Earths lifespan. How are we to know if this is normal? And hence make that big distinction – is climate change natural or man-made?

From saving money

One thing I’ve always been good at, as detailed in my financial evolution post, is saving money. One of the first personal finance blogs I found was Mr Money Mustache or MMM to those in the cult. Despite a few attributes that I don’t like, I was very receptive to MMM’s financial philosophy. I finally found my home money wise and had found myself a great role model. Random aside: nowadays I am troubled that most of my financial role models were male, as detailed in this post on female financial mentors for International Women’s Day.

So fully bought into MMM’s money beliefs,  I noticed his focused moved to the environment. Initially, the environmentalism used to grate on me – I just didn’t get it. So there I was very keen on saving pennies and living a healthy life, yet I was not able to engage or understand his environmental concerns. I was one of those readers that baulked at the heavy “save the earth” type posts, such as this MMM article on leaving a small footprint.

To saving the planet

Eventually, I then started realising frugality and environmental concerns were kinda aligned. Saving money is also saving the environment in a lot of ways. As an example, buying second hand is a no-brainer financially, and is also much more sustainable for the planet.

Also as I’ve got older, and more socially responsible my priorities have changed. What us humans have done to the planet is horrific. Pictures such as that plastic strewn beach in the South Pacific really frighten me. Moreover, as I’ve never ever littered – I just don’t understand those who just chuck their rubbish out of car windows or fly-tip in the countryside. It’s abhorrent and disrespectful, and I simply cannot fathom how people find this acceptable.

Ms ZiYou Trees

My Lifestyle Nowadays

It’s not surprising to hear how old-fashioned thrifty habits, such as using cloth rather than disposable are better for the environment and create less waste.  I’m fully bought into the phrase below, that the intersection between frugality and environmental awareness is very closely correlated.

Thrift = Eco

I’m never going to win any eco-warrior prizes, but I am secretly quite impressed about the following l do automatically without thinking.

  • Buy clothes second hand
  • Use all energy saving light bulbs
  • No disposable wipes/J-cloths etc
  • Switch everything electrical off at mains
  • No cling film or tin foil – I use Tupperware when possible
  • Use flasks to take tea/coffee out of the house
  • Rarely get coffee out or takeaway food with packing
  • Bring my own bottle for water in the summer
  • Don’t bag fruit and veg such as bananas and melons that come with natural protective packaging
  • I always carry a reusable bag and never use disposable plastic bags

Anti-Disposable

Moreover,  I avoid disposable culture generally and don’t tend to buy a lot or have a lot of packaging etc. But lately, I’ve been on an anti-disposable tirade. The number of plastic cups used once and then sent to landfill is frightening. And plastic cutlery seems to on the rise – now I rebel and carry my own cutlery which I wash and reuse.  In addition to personally not using disposable items, I have become of those who guilts people who use plastic cups all day to reduce their consumption or use a bottle. I’m slowly becoming an anti-plastic evangelist.

Maybe one of the reasons I’ve been slow to adopt the environmental cause is that I was never a horrifically bad person environmentally? I’ve never been a big buyer or user of disposable items, due to my kinda frugal nature. Hence my impact on the environment was perhaps not as steep as others? I don’t tend to generate much waste and recycle and compost at home automatically without thinking.

But we’re not talking perfection.

On the other hand, I do love to travel. And I’ll happily jump on a plane without a second thought. I do also own a car –  a Prius – which is not strictly necessary. I could still live, work and play without the car. So why do I have it? It makes some things much easier; like going camping. All the best campsites are remote in my opinion, in the countryside. And gardening must be harder without a car – how do you buy compost? Or bark? And day trips to the countryside, National Trust visits and interesting country hikes would be much harder.

My car does have a zone 3 rule.

I do own a car when I don’t actually need a car. I live in outer London, with amazing public transport. It’s no doubt my car is a luxury. It is not allowed to go into Zone 3 London – if I’m heading that way, I need to take public transport. No excuses.  As who really want to be stuck in traffic? Not to mention the car makes getting to the airport much easier. And makes day trips to France a possibility.

Ms ZiYou floral

I love nature

Another reason that I want to do my bit for the environment due to my adoration of nature. I absolutely love getting to the country. Hiking is a fabulous weekend activity. Scaling a mountain and marvelling at its just pure damn amazingness is my kind of fun. The way nature cycles is fascinating – following daily and annual rhythms by itself, without any need for human intervention. I am still amazed that a small seed can grow into a massive tree. That a caterpillar becomes a pretty butterfly. And surely we all remember the story of the Ugly Duckling’s transformation?

Accidental Environmentalist

So I’ve become an accidental environmentalist. I didn’t mean to land here. Or to be honest I don’t really know how I got here. But here I am, the woman who now chastises people for plastic waste. And religiously practises reduce, reuse and recycling. And you know what, I’m happy playing the eco-conscious hippy. I think it suits me.

Over to you

  • What’s your position on climate change?
  • Has your position changed over the years?
  • How would you rate your current efforts?

Thanks for reading – please leave a comment below and join in the conversation. You can also connect on Twitter or Pinterest.

Looking forward to your thoughts and ideas – all are welcome. 

20 comments on “An accidental environmentalist gets more devout

  1. I feel the same, I’ve definitely become more environmentally conscious over the last few years and I want to do more within my own household to minimise our impact on the planet. There are a few things we already do like you – recycle our plastic and cardboard waste, use recyclable shopping bags (and I’ve got better and keeping them in my bag and car!), use a recyclable water bottle and energy saving lightbulbs. I’ve also started using a website called Ethical Superstore to buy eco-friendly cleaning products and toiletries although this isn’t always completely in line with a frugal mentality. Our next step after we’ve renovated our garden is to have a composter for food waste and start growing our own vegetables. Given the state of the garden at the moment, I think this next step is likely to be at least a year away!

  2. I’ve been concerned about the environment as a whole for YEARS but I only started really interrogating my personal habits in the last few years. And I’m not perfect either—I, too, own a car in a city where I absolutely don’t need one (but you’re so right, it makes going out go hiking possible!). I’ll still occasionally reach for disposable plasticware or a disposable coffee cup when I’m out. But I’m also someone who takes plastic water bottles out of the trash and puts them into the recycling (this drives me crazy. The bins are right next to each other! Why are people so lazy?). I turn off my power strips and bump up the temperature for the a/c before I leave the apartment so it’s not blasting all day while no one’s home.

    I LOVE the connection between frugality and sustainability, and watching how I spend my money has absolutely forced/inspired me to reduce my impact on the planet!

    1. Hi Erin, yeah, the alignment between frugality and sustainability is tight, and following one does tend to drive you to the other.

      You are badass resorting the trash for people, impressed!

  3. I drive and I take long distance flights – not good.

    However, I make full use of my three recycle bins and sort through my rubbish religiously, partly because I want to do my bit but also because my council is one of those who fines people for putting the rubbish in the wrong bins, which I think is a good incentive to make people sort it out! I take my own reusable shopping bags everywhere.

    To keep my bills down, I switch off lights and appliances; the heating doesn’t come on in the house before October and is off by March, although this year was particularly cold so didn’t come off until April, which has meant a bigger bill! As I’m on a meter, I naturally don’t waste my water. I think overall, I consume very little these days, as I’m a bit of a hoarder so am reusing stuff that’s years old.

    I only ever buy bottled water when I’m at the airport, since it’s the only thing I will drink (I avoid alcohol and caffeine when I’m travelling).

    I hope to do more for the environment when I don’t have to work, eg volunteer to help clean beaches, parks etc and of course, I’d love to grow my own veg but need to acquire green fingers!

    1. Hi Weenie – your council fines you! That is harsh, but then again I guess it works?

      Yeah, I also didn’t put my heating off as usual in April, it was so cold here!

      I always take a reusable bottle (empty) to the airport – I refuse to buy water, but I have no problems buying wine and asking them to fill my water bottle!

      And yes, when I retire I’m sure I’ll be able to do much better as well.

  4. Welcome to the green side! I’ve been an environmentalist since I was a young kid. I turned vegetarian at the age of 11 after learning about deforestation as a result of industrial cow farming. My main weakness is definitely travel though… I’m not quite sure my other lifestyle choices really compensate.

    1. Hi Mindy – yeah, flying and travelling is one of my weaknesses as well – I do say once I FIRE I will slow travel, with minimal flights. But I do feel bad that I’ve already been on 6 flights this year!

  5. “What us humans have done to the planet is horrific”
    Couldn’t agree more. You can be cycling along a remote road in Scotland and the road-side is strewn with litter. Or when you see the sheer size and emptiness of some of the wilderness areas, yet the sheer intensity of what we do today is having such an enormous impact – and it’s an impact based upon what we have been doing in the past. We’re still doing it today and to a greater degree – means things must keep getting worse before they have any chance of getting better.
    We can all do what we can though, and nice to see more and more people eschewing plastic, thinking about travel – thinking about consumption. FIRE should be good for that – although it is based upon funnelling more money into the machine that’s driving consumption in others. I do have some mental struggle about that aspect of FIRE.

    1. Yeah, I also struggle what that contradiction of FIRE – you need to invest in companies that then need consumers to buy their wares. But you should resist buying the wares. It seems kinda hypocritical in some ways almost to me.

  6. Nobody’s meant to say this, and it’s controversial as hell, but knock yourself out with the flights. Save one transatlantic flight and you save about 1.5tCO2e p.a. Have one fewer child, and it’s ~58 of those units per year. See the Institute of Physics for the down low. Now maybe you are planning 30 long-haul flights a year, but if not, you’re ahead of the game.

      1. I think that gives you 30 long-haul round-trips before you impact the earth more 😉 That’s quite a punishing schedule!

        It’s surprising how little some of the classic FI things are – hang dry clothes disappears into the noise, and things like recycling and fiddling with your light bulbs doesn’t count for much. Always puzzled me why recycling is considered an environmental issue, it’s more a pollution control issue IMO, so the energy saved is pretty much a by product.

  7. I’m far from perfect. I have taken several transatlantic and transpacific flights. I have a baby girl. And my wife and I would like one or two more kids too. I fully acknowledge that none of this is good for the environment.

    But my wife and I try to make some effort to be good stewards of the environment when we can. We don’t use plastic bags. We refuse plastic straws. We don’t buy disposable paper tissue or napkins. Our use of toilet paper is severely limited (we use a bidet). We don’t shower/bathe every day (unless you’re getting dirty/sweaty all the time, it’s not necessary). I drive a Tesla which is somewhat better than a gasoline powered car with an internal combustion engine. I say somewhat because the production of a Tesla and its battery is still an intense strain on the environment despite the zero carbon fuel emissions post production. My wife and I eat an exclusively vegan plant-based diet that is minimally processed and we avoid buying prepackaged foods. Our intention is to raise our kids on a similar diet. We use Ecosia as our default search engine (which helps plant more trees). Like you, we bring a reusable water bottle everywhere we go.

    There is so much more we can all do. It would be fantastic if the whole world gravitated a bit more toward the “zero waste” movement.

What do you think?